On Socialization

As a parent, I spend much of my day attempting to “socialize” my kids–“Don’t hit your brother! Stop jumping on the couch! For the umpteenth time, ‘yeah, right!’ is sarcasm.”

There are a lot of things that don’t come naturally to little kids. Many of them struggle to understand that these wiggly lines on paper can turn into words or that tiny, invisible things on their hands can make them sick.

“Yes, you have to brush your teeth and go to bed, no, I’m not explaining why again.”

And they definitely don’t understand why I won’t let them have ice cream for dinner.

“Don’t ride your bike down the hill and into the street like that! You could get hit by a car and DIE!”

Despite all of the effort I have devoted to transforming this wiggly bunch of feral children into respectable adults (someday, I hope,) I have never found myself concerned with the task of teaching them about gender. As a practical matter, whether the children behave like “girls” or “boys” makes little difference to the running of the household, because we have both–by contrast, whether the children put their dishes away after meals and do their homework without me having to threaten or cajole them makes a big difference.

Honestly, I can’t convince them not to pick their noses in public or that broccoli is tasty, but I’m supposed to somehow subtly convince them that they’ve got to play Minecraft because they’re boys (even while explicitly saying, “Hey, you’ve been playing that for two hours, go ride your bike,” or that they’re supposed to be walking doormats because they’re girls (even while saying, “Next time he pushes you, push him back!”)

And yet the boys still act like boys, the girls like girls–statistically speaking.

“Ah,” I hear some of you saying, “But you are just one parent! How do you know there aren’t legions of other parents who are out there doing everything they can to ensure that their sons succeed and daughters fail in life?”

This is, if you will excuse me, a very strange objection. What parent desires failure from their children?

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In Defense of Planned Parenthood

Abortion and birth control are important tools in the ultimate human thriving toolkit.

Unless you want to eliminate all the robots and go back to agricultural labor (which is not going to get you an interstellar society,) you will have to deal, somehow, with all of the humans who don’t have the chops to survive in society. Letting people starve in the streets is inhumane and inspires people to fund large social welfare states, which may have negative long-term effects.

Historically, death rates were very high, especially infant mortality. My great-great grandparents lost over half of their 16 children before the age of five; such was normal.

The effects of declining infant mortality are happy parents, of course, but also long-term degradation of the gene pool, overpopulation, and eventual systemic collapse as we burn through the Earth’s resources. We’re already seeing this, both in increasing reaction times (it looks like Whites are getting dumber, and Ashkenazi IQ is probably plummeting, relatively speaking,) and the flooding of high-breeding peoples out of their exhausted biomes into fresh territory to consume (to the detriment of those trying to maintain a non-degraded biome.)

As I believe I have mentioned before, there is nothing like a parenting forum to convince you that parents are idiots. Unfortunately, a very large percentage of people become parents because they are too dumb not to.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who tried to reassure me that this was not a problem. “Don’t worry,” they said. “Dumb people have always had more kids than smart people.”

“No,” I said. “No no no. Dumb people did not historically have more kids than smart people.” History was brutal; 20-50% infant mortality was the norm, and people who did a better job taking care of and providing for their children had more children who made it to adulthood than those who didn’t.

No one in their right mind wants to simply eliminate all maternal and childhood medical care (and hygiene) so we can return to the age of high infant mortality. There are far better solutions than giving everyone Smallpox and seeing who makes it. But you also do not want a situation where the primary barrier to reproduction is actually intelligence.

The obvious solution is free IUDs for everyone. Globally. The long-term planners will get theirs removed when they’re ready to have children, and the short term planners will be able to go about their business without making “oopsies.” People who want 18 children will still be able to have 18 children, but people who don’t have the resources to support children don’t have to have any.

Abortion also plays an important role in the maintenance of modern society. Ideally, free abundant birth control would eliminate most of the need for abortion, but there will always be mistakes, medical complications, and non-viable fetuses of various sorts. Eliminate these earlier, not later.

These are not the children of intelligent, healthy, well-adjusted people who have some weird phobia of childbirth. These are fetuses with health problems and fetuses whose parents don’t have the resources, mentally or physically, to take care of them. The apple does not fall far from the tree, and genetically, those children will inherit their parents’ traits. If you are not volunteering to raise those fetuses (and their fetuses) yourself, then I think you should give some serious thought to who you think will.

After all is said and done, I don’t care what Planned Parenthood does with aborted fetuses, so long as they’re disposed of hygienically. They’re already dead, for goodness sakes.

Sorry, Les Mis: Criminals gonna Criminal

“3 in 4 former prisoners in 30 states arrested within 5 years of release” (from the Bureau of Justice Statistics press release, April 22, 2014.)Inspired by my recent musings, I thought I would refresh my memory on recidivism stats–I have a vague memory that murderers tend not to recidivate, (murderers tend to stay in prison for a very long time) and that car jackers do, but it’s a bad idea to make claims based on vague memories of old data.

So here’s what the press release has to say:

“An estimated two-thirds (68 percent) of 405,000 prisoners released in 30 states in 2005 were arrested for a new crime within three years of release from prison, and three-quarters (77 percent) were arrested within five years…

More than a third (37 percent) of prisoners who were arrested within five years of release were arrested within the first six months after release, with more than half (57 percent) arrested by the end of the first year.”

We could probably save some time and effort if we could effectively identify those third before releasing them. HOWEVER, I don’t know what percent of these people are being re-arrested on parole violations that the rest of us might not really consider “crimes”, like missing a meeting with one’s parole officer or forgetting to register one’s address.

“Recidivism rates varied with the attributes of the inmate. Prisoners released after serving time for a property offense were the most likely to recidivate. Within five years of release, 82 percent of property offenders were arrested for a new crime, compared to 77 percent of drug offenders, 74 percent of public order offenders and 71 percent of violent offenders.”

I’m guessing violent offenders spent longer in prison, and thus were older when released.

“Recidivism was highest among males, blacks and young adults. By the end of the fifth year after release, more than three-quarters (78 percent) of males and two-thirds (68 percent) of females were arrested, a 10 percentage point difference that remained relatively stable during the entire 5-year follow-up period.

Five years after release from prison, black offenders had the highest recidivism rate (81 percent), compared to Hispanic (75 percent) and white (73 percent) offenders.”

So, while while the chances of being a criminal vary widely between groups, criminals from all the groups recidivate at fairly similar rates. This suggests that we are probably actually arresting the subset of people who are criminals most of the time.

“Within five years of release, 61 percent of released inmates with four or fewer arrests in their prior criminal history were arrested, compared to 86 percent of those who had 10 or more prior arrests.”

Maybe guys with 10 prior arrests shouldn’t be released until they’re well over 40?

Some finer grain on recidivism by specific crime, after five years (note: this does not tell us the new offense,) from the PDF:

Violent: 71.3%
Homicide: 51.2
Murder: 47.9
Nonnegligent manslaughter: 55.7
Negligent manslaughter: 53.0
Rape/sexual assault: 60.1
Robbery: 77.0
Assault: 77.1
Other: 70.4
Property: 82.1%
Burglary: 81.8
Carjacking: 84.1
Fraud/forgery: 77.0
Drug: 76.9%
Possession: 78.3
Trafficking: 75.4
Public order: 73.6%
Weapons: 79.5
Driving under the influence: 59.9

Looks like my vague memories were correct. Murderers are the least likely to recidivate, probably due to the personal nature of many murders (you’ve got to really hate that guy,) and murderers being older when released, but they are still folks who aren’t great at solving inter-personal problems or running their lives. Rapist probably figure out non-illegal ways to have sex, or else get old enough to be less interested in it. Drunks probably learn to call a cab when drunk.

Relatively speaking, of course. A 50 or 60% recidivism rate still isn’t something that inspires great confidence. To be clear, again, this is not data on how many released murderers commit another murder or how many released rapists commit another rape–this is arrest for any crime. A further breakdown of re-arrest by new crime vs. old crime would be interesting.Carjacking, by contrast, looks like the Xtreme sports of crime–people attracted to this form of violent thrill-seeking seem unlikely to change their spots or find more legal alternatives.

On a related note, The role of parenting in the prediction of criminal involvement: findings from a nationally representative sample of youth and a sample of adopted youth.

From the abstract: The role of parenting in the development of criminal behavior has been the source of a vast amount of research, with the majority of studies detecting statistically significant associations between dimensions of parenting and measures of criminal involvement. An emerging group of scholars, however, has drawn attention to the methodological limitations-mainly genetic confounding-of the parental socialization literature. The current study addressed this limitation by analyzing a sample of adoptees to assess the association between 8 parenting measures and 4 criminal justice outcome measures. The results revealed very little evidence of parental socialization effects on criminal behavior before controlling for genetic confounding and no evidence of parental socialization effects on criminal involvement after controlling for genetic confounding.

In other words, looks like my basic thesis is holding up. Overall, I suspect it is far easier to fuck up a kid so they don’t meet their full potential (say, by abusing/neglecting) than to get rid of the effects of negative traits. It’s probably best to try to work with people’s inclinations by finding them life-paths that work for them, rather than trying to mold them into something they aren’t.

Without Children, Religion is Pointless… (Part 2)

Without ceremony, religion is empty.

Without children, it’s pointless.

Without a strong sense of ethnicity, religious identity disappears.

This is Part Two of a series on the decline of religion. Part One is here.

 

People go to church because they have kids. It happens almost mechanistically. People go to church when they are little kids, because their parents force them to. Then they move out of the house and stop attending–even the devout ones. A decade later or so, they have kids of their own and start feeling the yearn for some sort of religion in their childrens’ lives–something to teach their kids the ethical norms, values, and traditions of their culture–and so they head back to the church of their childhood.

Remember, religion isn’t just a bunch of factual statements about god. If it were that, there wouldn’t be a lot to say. It’s not something people logically believe, because if they did, the children of Muslims in Pakistan would be just as likely to turn out Christian as Muslim. Religion is about culture/ethnicity–it’s a specific subset of culture/ethnicity that happens to sometimes involve a deity. That is, Pakistanis like Allah just like Finns like Deathmetal.

People want to teach their kids to be good people, to be good members of their communities and follow the values of their ancestors, and this is where religion comes in. People go to church specifically for the purpose of getting someone else to spend half an hour trying to cram civilization into their kids teach their children morality, culture, etc. Heck, we even invent extra deities (Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny,) to reward and punish children, just to get them to behave.

 

The fewer children people have, the less need they feel for church. People who have no children have little need for it at all–after their period of non-church attendance as young adults, they will most likely continue not attending church for the rest of their lives. People with one kid feel some slight need for church, but can survive without it. People with multiple children are eager to send them off to Sunday school for a half hour while they go enjoy the relative peace and quiet of a nice little worship service.

But with birthrates dwindling, smaller households become increasingly atheistic over the generations.

 

Of course, you may object that there is an obvious causality in the other direction–some religions are explicitly natalist. Mormons, Hasidic Jews, Quiverfull Christians, and Muslims come immediately to mind. However, these groups are a minority among Americans; they can’t explain the overall tendency of religious Americans to have more children. Thus, it seems more likely to me that either the kinds of people who want lots of children also happen to be the kind of people who want to go to church, or that having lots of children actually drives people to go to church.

 

Stay tuned for Part 3, Religious Identity is Ethnic Identity.

Has Australia gone Totally Nuts?

Is having a loving family an unfair advantage? from ABC Radio National–the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Or is it just philosophers?

Western moral philosophy is completely broken because “academics” do not understand the basics of how morality works.

Normal people understand morality. People who were dropped on their heads as infants generally understand morality. Philosopher Adam Smith, however, thinks,

‘What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn’t need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people’s children’.

The test they devised was based on what they term ‘familial relationship goods’; those unique and identifiable things that arise within the family unit and contribute to the flourishing of family members.

For Swift, there’s one particular choice that fails the test.

‘Private schooling cannot be justified by appeal to these familial relationship goods,’ he says. ‘It’s just not the case that in order for a family to realise these intimate, loving, authoritative, affectionate, love-based relationships you need to be able to send your child to an elite private school.’

“I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally,”

Jesus effin’ Christ, this guy is an idiot.

Of course, anyone who studies inequality and sets themselves up as an expert on the issue and says things like, “I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families,” is an idiot. We have studies on these nifty people called “identical twins” and what happens when they are adopted by two different families and raised in different environments.

What happens is not very much. Within the normal range of parenting (like, not beating your children and locking them in the closet,) measurable life outcomes like criminality, IQ, income, etc., have more to do with the kids’ genes than with their adoptive parents’ parenting.

(Where parenting probably does matter is how much your kids like you. If you’re a jerk to them, they probably won’t call you very often.)

So, no, inequality is not caused by people reading bedtime books to their kids. It’s not caused by sending them to private school, and parents sure as hell don’t need philosophers to come up with complicated theories to justify being nice to their kids, because normal people don’t suffer these delusions.

“According to Swift, from a purely instrumental position the answer is straightforward.

‘One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.’”

Riiiight. Remember, you pay actual money to send your kids to university so they can be taught by these people.

“‘When we talk about parents’ rights, we’re talking about the person who is parenting the child. How you got to be parenting the child is another issue. One implication of our theory is that it’s not one’s biological relation that does much work in justifying your rights with respect to how the child is parented.’

For Swift and Brighouse, our society is curiously stuck in a time warp of proprietorial rights: if you biologically produce a child you own it.”

This is because most humans would knife you before letting you take their children away from them, because the instinct to take care of our children is a basic biological drive honed by thousands of years of evolution. Morality is an evolved instinct for taking care of our children. If you don’t understand that, then you don’t understand morality, though you might get by simply by listening to the collective wisdom of thousands of generations of your ancestors who managed to successfully raise children.

“Then, does the child have a right to be parented by her biological parents? Swift has a ready answer.

‘It’s true that in the societies in which we live, biological origins do tend to form an important part of people’s identities, but that is largely a social and cultural construction. So you could imagine societies in which the parent-child relationship could go really well even without there being this biological link.’”

I am normally a peaceful person, but this guy actually inspires a deep, burning hatred, but that might just be my fear that this guy is going to try to kidnap my children speaking.

Rights are a social construct. Ethnicity is kind of a construct, and kind of a biological reality. Identifying with and getting along with one’s parents is based entirely in reality. It has to do with things like “are my parents jerks?” and “Do my parents understand me?”

So let me tell you a little secret of some relevance: I was adopted. My adoptive family was very loving and very kind. I am now, as an adult, in contact with my biological family, from whom I was, shall we say, unjustly removed. My biological family is also very loving and kind. No one here was jerkfaces; I am grateful to everyone.

I have a much, much stronger connection with the biological family I only met as an adult than I have with the adoptive family that actually raised me. I can’t help it. These people are like me in deep, fundamental ways. They have the same or similar hobbies as I do. They struggle with similar problems. They reason about the world in the same ways. We have instant shortcuts to understanding each other.

So, even though my adoptive family was super-loving and awesome and I love them and so on, the idea of trying to run a whole society like this, the idea of depriving everyone in society of that basic instinctual connection with the people around them that you non-adopted people don’t even realize you have, is kind of horrifying.